During the 1999/2000 summer, several New Zealand permafrost-related programs were undertaken in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica: Jackie Aislabie (Landcare) is leading an ongoing programme into the effects of hydrocarbons on soil properties in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica.

 

Other researchers in the programme include Megan Balks (University of Waikato), Robert Gibb, Doug Sheppard, Iain Campbell, and Graeme Claridge. The work involves monitoring a range of soil and climate parameters, at three sites of contrasting soils and climate, in collaboration with John Kimble and Ron Paetzold (USDA). Data have shown increased temperature and microbial activity at hydrocarbon-contaminated sites compared to controls. Megan Balks presented a paper at the Contaminants in Freezing Ground Conference in Cambridge, UK, in July and results of aspects of the programme have been presented at a number of other national and international conferences.

Paul Augustinus (University of Auckland) continued his high resolution ground penetrating radar study into the internal structure of Holocene raised beaches on the McMurdo Sound Coast. The mapping of permafrost types and active-layer depth using radar was a significant outcome of this work.

Warren Dickinson (Victoria University of Wellington) lead a programme that involves shallow permafrost drilling in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. This drilling project had its first field season starting in November 2000, and is based on new portable drilling techniques which allow shallow coring of permafrostglacial sediments in remote areas. The primary aim of this project is to recover a climate record from Antarctic ground ice and soils which potentially hold detailed climate information and date back 15 million years. The cored material will not only be used to determine climate and climate history from geological and biochemical material, but will also provide stratigraphic information for ground penetrating radar studies and outcrop maps of glacial sediments. Ground ice from a high elevation site in the Dry Valleys was obtained during a pilot drilling project in 1996-1997. Chemical data from this ice suggests it originated from atmospheric water vapour and brine formed at the surface.

Iain Campbell lead a project which involved detailed examination of the soils at the Lake Hoare LTER site (McMurdo Dry Valleys) in November/December 1999. Soil moisture was measured gravimetrically on a daily basis at various sites, and diurnal soil moisture changes appear to be related to daily weather conditions. The first year of data from the three soil-climate sites established in January 1999 show marked changes in soil moisture content throughout the year and a close relationship with trends in soil temperature. Soil moisture values are very low over wintermonths and peak for short periods following summer snowfalls.

Discussions were recently held in Christchurch on a proposal for a multinational (USA/NZ/Italy) Latitudinal Gradient Project to study ecosystem changes along the Transantarctic Mountains from 70ºS to 86ºS. Mapping and examination of periglacial and permafrost processes will form an integral part of this project. For details of the LGP project go to: http:// www.antarc-ticanz. govt.nz/Pages/Science/Lat- Project.msa.

Paul Augustinus (p_augustinus@hotmail.com )